Mass Spectrometry–Driven Discovery of Neuropeptides Mediating Nictation Behavior of Nematodes

Cockx, Bram, et al. “Mass Spectrometry–Driven Discovery of Neuropeptides Mediating Nictation Behavior of Nematodes.” Molecular & Cellular Proteomics 22.2 (2023).


Neuropeptides regulate animal physiology and behavior, making them widely studied targets of functional genetics research. While the field often relies on differential -omics approaches to build hypotheses, no such method exists for neuropeptidomics. It would nonetheless be valuable for studying behaviors suspected to be regulated by neuropeptides, especially when little information is otherwise available. This includes nictation, a phoretic strategy of Caenorhabditis elegans dauers that parallels host-finding strategies of infective juveniles of many pathogenic nematodes. We here developed a targeted peptidomics method for the model organism C. elegans and show that 161 quantified neuropeptides are more abundant in its dauer stage compared with L3 juveniles. Many of these have orthologs in the commercially relevant pathogenic nematode Steinernema carpocapsae, in whose infective juveniles, we identified 126 neuropeptides in total. Through further behavioral genetics experiments, we identify flp-7 and flp-11 as novel regulators of nictation. Our work advances knowledge on the genetics of nictation behavior and adds comparative neuropeptidomics as a tool to functional genetics workflows.